Tag Archives: encouragement

Week # 19 James 1: 2-3

James 1: 2-3

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”

Life + Trials = Pure Joy

How does that add up?  According to the world we live in it doesn’t.  Why would the writer of James even think to suggest pure joy as our response to facing trials that test our faith?  If you have time to read James 1:1-27 you will discover that James recognizes the benefit of the different trials in our life as a way of producing God focused perseverance that will achieve three things; mature us in our faith, make us complete in Christ, and  receivers of the crown of life prepared for those who love the Lord.  Our challenges in life have kingdom purpose even when we can’t see clearly while in the  testing of our faith.  Let’s not miss out on the benefits found in persevering through faith in Christ.

Would you agree that life is full of many kinds of trials?  You might be in the middle of one right now and thinking to yourself this concept is crazy.  I’m supposed to be joyful in this!  You don’t know what is going on in my life…..God can’t really expect me to be joyful!   Your right I don’t know what you are experiencing and I pray that you will find peace and joy in the Lord as we continue to explore this counter-culture call to seek after pure joy even in our storms.

What does it look like to either face a storm that is brewing or walk through a storm with pure joy?  I have a dear friend who I have had the privilege of watching and at times walking with her through a hurricane of life’s trials with her children.  I compare it to a hurricane because the intensity would change based on the winds and how close or far away she was from the eye of the storm.  When I first met her I was drawn to her warm smile and fun and relaxed attitude toward life.  There wasn’t any immediate outward appearance of distress.  She was joyful.  When I became aware of the intensity of her trials with her children I was taken off guard.  It was evident that the Lord was her strength and peace as she weathered the hurricane that was trying to destroy her family.  This storm hit land fall when one of her children began making a few bad choices in friends then it led down a path of disappearances, destruction of property, detention centers, and the waves and storm surge created from those events crashed down on the relationships within the family.   Just as she was able to get up to assess the damages from one wave the next child started  down their own destructive path.  As the storm howled and beat on her family she fought to subdue the storm of emotions within her own heart.  Why God? What did I do?  How did I fail?  Why won’t they stop?  Where are you God?  I should have……  Why didn’t I…….  How can I go on…..  Her only peace was found in her quiet time with the Lord and it was there that she found her pure joy in him that strengthens her as her storm rages on.  Her joyful verse is Nehemiah 8:10b “And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

My dear friend has been an inspiration to me to choose the pure joy of Christ to strengthen me and sustain me through my own trials in life.  She continues to preserver through what feels like a never-ending storm.  Her faith and trust in the Lord keep her anchored.  Her joy encourages others to trust and builds their faith and their love for the Lord.  She has defiantly kept her lamp lit and shinning brightly through her storm.  I’m so thankful for her light shining into my life and leading me to the strength of the Lord.

Many times the trials of life leave us feeling alone and in the dark.  When that happens we can turn the light on and strengthen our faith by remembering to turn to the truth of God’s word for encouragement.  Psalm 119: 105 reminds us that the word of the Lord is a lamp that shines on our path as we walk with the Lord through life.  So if we choose to keep our eyes on how big and faithful the Lord is then our circumstances will return to their proper perspective, small in the hands of God.  We are then able to consider life and it’s challenges through the lens of pure joy.  Don’t let your light burn out stay connected to the light of the world and our faith builder, Christ, and preserver as you shine brightly for him.  Does this mean we will be beaming with a smile all the time as we weather our storms?  No, it means that we can remain steady in the storm, anchored in our hope, able to trust we are secure in our heavenly Father’s care and able to be real with those who genuinely seek to come along side us.  When we are steady in our relationship with Christ it shines through when we find it hard to smile.

Even in the storms of life a rainbow can emerge if  His light is shining through the rain or the tears.  Keep a look out for His rainbows in your life!

Life + Trials = Pure Joy~ Make it true in your life!

Be Alert~ Stay Strong~ Pray Always

Warrior~Princess Sherry

Welcome if you are joining me for the first time. This post is part of my weekly series “Wisdom Wellspring”. Take a moment to visit the page to learn about the heart behind the series and view previous posts.

Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

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Walls or Bridges?

Walls or Bridges?

I was leading a Bible study group through Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer when this “tidbit” rocked my world. I hope you are encouraged. In this study, at the end of each study day, she asks us to write down our “Actionable Intel”(a personal take a way). This particular day we were studying the Shoes of the Gospel of Peace. Priscilla asked us with each piece of armor, we studied, to step back from our life circumstances and ask the Lord to reveal the spiritual realities influencing our daily interactions and experiences. That day we focused on how the enemy seeks to demolish the peace that God gives us in life. One way he does this is to keep us off balance and distract us from close relationship with God, the people of God, and the other people in our life.

Ephesians 2:13 – 18 tells us “he (Christ) himself is our peace, who has made the two groups (Israel and Gentile) one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility (verse 14 parentheses added). Christ reconciled both Israel and Gentile to God through the cross. The cross is the bridge he built to bring the peace of God to mankind for all mankind to have peace with him and one another.

My “actionable intel” for that study day was the following:

“Christ builds bridges of peace~unity~strength~love. Our enemy builds walls of deception to separate~isolate~weaken~spawn hatred. Which architect will you hire?”

This “actionable intel” is a challenge to be alert and ready to stand strong with our “Shoes of the Gospel of Peace” strapped on securely. Living as peacemakers who build bridges in the power of Christ through love, forgiveness, gentleness, and unifying strength.

Reflect on your relationships.   Which are they more characterized by tension or peace? The answer to this question will reveal if your life is full of bridges or walls?

 

Reflective Prayer:

Lord we come to you asking you to strengthen us in your love and peace. Help us to recognize the areas where we have worked with the enemy to build walls in our heart, our relationships, and our lifestyle.   Soften our hearts with your love, forgive us of our sins, and restore us to our peaceful relationship with you. Guide and teach us how to build bridges and walk on those bridges with you. Thank you for the bridge of your cross, which secures for those who believe in you, Jesus, that nothing can separate us from you— no wall, no sin, nothing! In Jesus name— Amen

Romans 8:38-39 Nothing can separate those in Christ from God!

What walls need bridges in your heart?  I’d love to hear……

Be Alert~ Stay Strong~ Pray Always

Warrior~Princess Sherry

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Pursuit!

Days run by like water flowing to the ocean- sometimes just a trickle and other times swiftly. Either way, they have an

creek-21749__480effect on the lives and landscape they run by and through. God’s natural design for the waters is to pursue the vast oceans as their ultimate destination. Likewise, His natural design for mankind is to pursue Him as our eternal destination. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Would you describe your pursuit as a trickle or a swiftly running stream? The easy answer is “not quite swiftly but much more than a trickle.” But what does that look like? As I consider the question.  My mind floods with even more questions— Am I pursuing Him at the rate He has designed for my life? Am I taking the path He has set out before me? Am I allowing His design to have the effect on me He intends? Am I allowing His design to have the effect on those He places in my life? Is it better to

water-1658021_1280landscape-1843128__480move at a swift pace or trickle? My heart struggled to discover a truthful response- one absent of rationalization. I desired a cloudless view of any part of my pursuit that wasn’t authentically centered on Christ. Not excusing areas of my life that I refuse to sacrifice in my pursuit of God’s call to “be Holy as He is Holy.”(1Peter 1:14 – 16)

Our pursuit of God is not measured by pace but rather our heart as we pursue a life that “finds out what pleases the Lord!” (Ephesians 5:10) When we study the paths of water to the ocean, we discover it travels at many different speeds

heart-996157__480and has subtle and drastic effects based on the path on which it has been set.   Each journey looks different. Consider the contrast of a flowing mountain stream, a river valley, and a mighty river. In each season they have their purpose and shape the landscape as designed by the Creator.

Living our life in pursuit will look different for each of us. The key is to keep moving with God whether it is at a painfully slow or exhilaratingly fast pace. Continue the journey with an open heart to what pleases the Lord and be prepared for the effects.

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As our lives are lived according to His eternal design it leaves us changed for His glory and those in our life’s path effected too. Take time to read the rest of Ephesians 5. Paul gives a few examples of “what pleases the Lord”. (Ephesians 5:10)   I will leave you with this challenge.

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Ephesians 5: 19b- 20 “Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

I’d love to hear what song the Lord puts in your heart!

Please leave me a comment here or on Facebook.

Be Alert~ Stay Strong~ Pray Always

Warrior~Princess Sherry

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The Journey Continues…

What are you doing with the heartbeats you have been given?  Where is your life journey taking you?   Some of us are enjoying the ride and maintaining a steady heartbeat.  While others are holding on wondering what is around the next corner, with hearts beating out of their chest.  Wherever you’re at along this journey of life I know we have a common beginning- our first heartbeat in our mothers womb. It was there life began, our first heartbeat, undetected by our mothers but heard with anticipation by our Creator, God.  Experiencing life, as we now know it began later, with an audience, as we were ushered into this amazing world and naturally inhaled our first breath.  Take a moment to soak in the miracle of life.   As I emerged myself in the miracle of my life I became captivated by the realization of the intentionalness of God  in my life!  He alone heard my first heartbeat,  he gave me my first breath, and he heard my first cry.  The very thought left me breathless.  I was struck with wonder to reflect on his intimate connection with each of us.  We are his first and destined to be his for eternity. He alone was there for my firsts and I know He will also be there to usher my soul into eternity after my final dun-dunt and exhale.  His love brings me to my knees. Each of us is between our first and last so the question is “what are we doing with the heartbeats in-between?”

The “heartbeats in-betwee”n is our journey lived out in this world that is not our home but preparation for our eternal home. It says in Ecclesiastes 3:11 that the Lord has placed eternity in our

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The Journey

hearts. What does that mean? Some would say it is the “God shaped hole” in our hearts and others it is the underlying “knowing” in our soul that there is more beyond this life.

The purpose of having eternity placed in our hearts is to spark the desire to seek after the Lord, ignite the inspiration to live in connection with Him, and the courage to take each step on our journey.  Eternity in our hearts leads us to relationship with our Heavenly Father. Relationship with him changes our identity and redefines our purpose as we live out our “heartbeats in-between”.

When your identity changes from how the “world” defines you to who God has made you in His Son, Jesus Christ, your purpose is refocused on eternal relationships. Discovering your identity in Christ opens your heart to the desire to follow after him. It inspires you to choose him over this world and awakens the courage to follow in his footsteps.

Hebrews 12:1-3 says it best. It instructs us to be strong on our journey that is “marked out for us” by throwing off all that hinders and entangles us. Encouraging us to remain eternally focused with our eyes fixed on Jesus following his example. He traveled his life journey, his “heartbeats in-between”, with the “joy set before him”, the redemption of the world and his glorification at the right hand of God the Father.   Jesus’ life provided a road map dotted with crossroads where he chose to live for eternal reward rather than worldly recognition. He lived a sinless life of love, was not entangled by the opposition from sinners, endured the cross, and perfected our faith pioneering the path marked out for us to follow.

Why is it so hard to follow Christ’s example? Apostle Paul answers that well in Romans 7:14-25. He shares the struggle to do what he desires in his heart,  to delight the Lord, but he doesn’t always win the battle. He describes a war waging between his body (a prisoner to sin nature) and his mind (delighting in law of God), which he loses more than he would like. Can you relate to Paul’s struggle? I can! Too often I find myself daily wanting to do what is right but then find myself doing the very thing I did not want to do. The influence of our sin nature doesn’t stop just because we have a new identity in Christ. The battle rages and we must fight and purpose to keep our focus on Jesus the perfect source of our desire, inspiration, and courage to take each righteous step toward eternity.

It is so easy to get off course and follow after wrong desires, of the sin nature. I find I must have courage to honestly assess the source of my desire and inspiration to make wise daily choices of the direction I will move.  Can you relate to any of these choices?

  • To buy or not to buy..IMG_2048
  • To say or not to say…
  • To do or not to do…
  • To stay or to go…
  • To look or look away….
  • Now, later, or not at all…

Depending on the day and situation some choices are easier to make and stay on course. I have found that the more grounded I am in my identity in Christ the clearer the right choice. When I am seeking in stillness with the Lord I have greater desire, inspiration, and courage to follow through with the God honoring opportunities set before me.

I encourage you to take time this week to be still with the Lord, breath in His goodness, and be infused with his strength for each moment. He hears your heartbeat and will guide your steps as you listen to His heart.

What are you doing with your “heartbeats in-between”?

Be Alert~ Stay Strong~ Pray Always

Warrior~Princess Sherry

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Can we be REAL?

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What is your wall?

Is anyone else tired of the walls and distance between who a person is and who others believe they are? Can we please just be REAL?  Life is tough no matter at what stage you find yourself. When we chose to build walls and keep others at a distance it hinders the growth of authentic relationships.  The extent to which barriers are built can even lead to losing the ability to know how to be “you”.  Leaving the builder, you, with the question to answer: “Who am I?”  Have you ever experienced a struggle within to identify and express your personal opinions and beliefs?  You strain to acknowledge them.  But they are blurred by the mask you’ve worn for the world.  Emotions try to emerge but they are blocked.  All you can feel is fear, numbness and confusion.    curtain-203714__340Reinforcements come to the rescue.  “What will they think of me if I’m really me?”…  “No one will like me anymore.”… “No one has to know I’m struggling…I can just keep hiding.”  The questions and rationalizations are indicators that your chameleon walls are thick and the reinforcements are strong.

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“Chameleon”

How do I know?  I was a chameleon for most of my life.  Growing up I struggled with who I was, so I lived in safety of my camouflage skills, like a chameleon.  My natural instinct was to keep harmony, make others happy, and stay out of trouble.  The expectations of others ruled my world.  I adapted and changed based on who I was with and what their expectations were so I would be accepted and keep the peace.  I thought I was in control.

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“It might not be easy at first glance to recognize it in yourself. “

Do I have any chameleon friends out there? It might not be easy at first glance to recognize it in yourself. Why? Because to an extent that is just part of surviving in our world of ever changing norms and expectations.   I realize it is safer to live with walls.  I’m an expert builder myself. But I have been challenged to tear my walls down and build REAL relationships: Relational through Encouragement, Authenticity, and Love! That means sharing the struggles of life and letting the light of Jesus shine through my weaknesses as my source of strength.

 

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“Can you trust God?”

I  was most challenged with tearing down my walls while living in Germany. Our family was preparing for Daddy to deploy for 15 months and suddenly I found myself facing a medical diagnosis that required emergency surgery with an extended recovery time. Many decisions needed to be made. One decision was “will this be a private walk or a public walk?”

Public was what the Lord required. In 2 Corinthians 1: 4-5 the Apostle Paul encourages us that we go through challenges to prepare us and give us opportunity to edify and relate to others through our experience. So there I was on the receiving end of much encouragement and support from newly made friends and strangers. I was learning to live out Proverbs 27:10 where it tells us that when we are in need of assistance we should get our help from those nearby rather than distant family. Living in Germany didn’t leave much choice.  It was out of my control

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2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Through that experience I gained friendships I never would have had the opportunity for and my witness for Christ grew. At that time I was also a leader in the community so for those who were watching my family and I handle this challenge it strengthened the message that we need each other in the good times and the challenging ones too.   As I let the Lord tear down some of my walls and trust him to be in control I grew in amazing ways.   It  became clear that I was telling women through my actions that a “strong woman is one who knows when she needs help and seeks it out”.   I have witnessed so many women, especially military wives, struggle in their own strength.  They chose to stay behind their walls and fake that they were in control and just fine. slide1 In reality, inside their walls at home, they were falling apart. I had a front row seat to my own struggle. When I let go of my control to the Lord. He broke me free!  I chose to be REAL first with Jesus and began doing life in his strength.  Then I found the freedom to be REAL with the people he placed in my life.

Can you relate to being a wall builder? Do you struggle to appear to have it “all together” when the world looks at you? Are you ready to live in REAL community?    Where do you want do go in your freedom of being REAL?

 

I hope to hear about your REAL Journey!

Armor Up, pride down, Pray Always

Warrior~Princess Sherry

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BREATHE!

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“Oxygen is essential to life”

How is your spiritual breathing? Have you been holding your breath too long? Take a deep breath. Hold it…..keep holding it….okay BREATHE. Did just the thought of holding your breath make you anxious? I don’t like the feeling I get after holding my breath for too long.  My heart starts to race and I begin to feel light headed. Why do you think that is? Because breathing oxygen is essential to life and our breath rate is usually in rhythm with our heart rate. They are dependent on each other to do their job- provide O2 to the body.

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“Maintains strength in our spiritual life”

Like physical breathing is essential to our physical life, taking time to spiritually BREATHE is essential to our spiritual life. Living out my identity in Christ should be as automatic as each breath I take, right? But why isn’t it? Oxygen taken in with each new breath is essential to maintain the strength of life in our body– from all the tiny cells to, each major organ.  Likewise, the way we live out our identity in Christ maintains the strength of our spiritual life. I am challenged by the harsh reality that I am not as immediatly aware or alarmed when my spiritual breathing has been interrupted as I am when I am forced to hold my breath for more than 30 seconds.  I can begin to feel the panic rise up inside, as I desire to release the old air and receive the new to avoid loss of consciousness or ultimately loss of life.

So what do I mean by spiritual breathing? Well recently I’ve been challenged with principles to help maintain spiritual balance in my life or taking time to BREATHE. I tend to put principles into acrostics making them easier to remember and put into practice. Here is my BREATHE acrostic:

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“BREATHE”

Believe God is able ~Remember you are redeemed and release ~Everyday eternally focused ~Available and aware ~Trust with thanksgiving ~Humbly resist ~Exhale ~

When I keep each of these “BREATHE” principles active in my life I am strengthening my spiritual life through responsible relationship with the Lord by living my identity in Him. I notice that I become spiritually oxygen deprived when any of the principles are out of balance or rhythm. Let’s take a brief look at these principles.

Believe God is able. This principle challenges us to keep who God is in alignment with who we believe He is. Sometimes this looks like remembering that He is the great I AM who holds all that is dear to me in his all-powerful, majestic hands. This principle asks us- “What do you really believe about God’s ability to provide and care for you and all that you hold close?” This of course cramps the style of any of us control freaks, right? ~Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God…” ~ Deuteronomy 7:9 “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God…”

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“He is faithful!”

Remember you are redeemed and release. Knowing who God is and remembering he has redeemed us as his daughters is the foundation of one’s identity in Christ. When I reflect on the power and sacrifice that were exercised for my redemption it calls me to a place of surrender and release. I surrender to his never-ending love where I am able to experience his gentle kindness. In this sweet relationship I release my hold on the shame of my sinfulness and allow him to wash me in his forgiveness. Remembering this also releases me from the snare and trap of the enemy leaving me free in Christ. ~1 Peter 1: 17-21 “…live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear…. it was not with perishable things …you were redeemed from the empty way of life…but with the precious blood of Christ…He was chosen before the creation of the world… through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.” ~ Ephesians 1:7-8 “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding.” ~ 1John1: 9-10 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us…”

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“A new day dawns with eternity at heart!”

Everyday is eternally focused. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”(Mathew 6:21) These words of Jesus ring true don’t they? Keeping our heart and head focused on where our real eternal treasure is difficult and takes determination. I struggle to fix my eyes on what is unseen because of the lure of the seen is so tangible and tempting even though it is temporary. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 “ Therefore do not lose heart…outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day…our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen…what is unseen is eternal.”

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“Here I am Lord!”

Available and aware. This principle reminds us “it’s not all about me”. Though I will make plans for my days and weeks it is the desire of my heart that the Lord will direct my feet. Some days it is evident that the Lord has better plans for the day than I do. My response to his redirection reveals my heart attitude toward being available for the Lord’s purposes and determined to press on in difficult circumstances. It also is evidence of my sensitivity to the teaching of the Holy Spirit. I must remain available to do the good works the Lord has prepared for me in advance.  I also need to be aware of his leading and the needs of others in my life. ~Philippians 3: 13-14 “…Forgetting what is behind and straining…I press on toward the goal…for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” John 14:26 “…the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send… will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you.”

Trust with thanksgiving. Philippians 4:6-7 sums this up. We are not to be anxious or worry about anything. Rather we are to trust God wholeheartedly with everything. To not be anxious means trusting God through petitioning in prayer and believing he is able with a thankful attitude. This is not easy but I do breathe more easily when I practice this principle.

Humbly resist. Resist what? The temptation of pride to take control and live like I don’t believe God is able. Pride is the root of all sin and it is the hardest for us to detect in ourself. A heart of humility helps us live selflessly and resistslide1 the tendency to control and capitalize for personal benefit. Proverbs 16:18 “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 3:7 “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.” 1John 2: 16-17 “For everything in the world- lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life- comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”

Exhale. Exhale everything into His hands and exclaim His excellence. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) When we take time to exhale, we are able to maintain an attitude of worship and experience the peace of the Lord in relationship with him. I am able to see him at work in the big and little things of life. Then I am moved to worship him with my life.

Take the time to review the principle verses that speak to where you are in your relationship with the Lord.

Armor Up, pride down, Pray Always

Warrior~Princess Sherry

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